A Dreary Afternoon at Versailles

Versailles across the Royal Court

Versailles across the Royal Court

Post of the Day: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together.
This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you as we shelter in place.

November 20th, 2018 :: Posted June 7th, 2020

We departed for Versailles in good weather ~ bluish skies and cool temps. A pleasant train ride transported us about an hour southwest of Paris where an additional 10-minute walk from the station led us to the palace. It was about noon when we arrived and traced the endless back-and-forth of the queue to its end in the Court of Honor. J went to get tickets as I stood in line and watched the sky shift to a pallid gray, bringing the onset of a cold drizzle. I popped the umbrella and we started our three-hour wait to enter the palace.

When you’re sightseeing, not every day can be a winner. I often remind myself of this when things like cold drizzle show up unexpectedly. This was followed by rain and wind and, by the time we were within reach of the palace entry, our coats were soaked and we were chilled to the bone except for the warmth given by a shared cup of hot chocolate fetched from a café. By this time the queue had dissipated, too. If we had just arrived later in the afternoon our entry would have been painless! Oh well. The woes of travel.

Gilded Gate at the Royal Court, Versailles

Gilded Gate at the Royal Court, Versailles

Versailles was initially built as a modest hunting lodge by King Louis XIII in 1624. He passed away in 1643, leaving the property to his four-year-old son Louis XIV who would eventually become the king of France. A regency council provided interim guidance until Louis was old enough to assume the role at the age of fifteen. Coincidentally, the coronation of King Louis XIV took place on June 7th, 1654 ~ exactly 366 years ago today.

A gilded fence silently proclaims the grandeur of Versailles with fleur-de-lis and crown details in the goldest gold. Into the Marble Courtyard, a geometric pattern adds unusual contrast to the ornate decor of the palace. The black and white marble tiles are original, from the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte in Maincy, France.

Marble Court

Marble Court

It was King Louis XIV’s fondness for Versailles (developed from numerous childhood stays and hunting excursions) that led him to begin an unrelenting quest to expand the lodge into a palace fit for a king. The expansion started in 1661 and continued even after his death in 1715.

Finally inside the Palace, we were starting to warm up. We toured a handful of the palace’s 2,300 rooms, each one exquisitely decorated with centuries-old paintings, furnishings and details … all the way down to gilded wood carvings and chipped paint on the doors.

Interior Door Detail

Interior Door Detail

The Hall of Mirrors endures as the most historic space within Versailles. It was here where leaders from the Allied powers and Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles, ending the First World War on June 28th, 1919.

The Hall of Mirrors

The Hall of Mirrors

The hall contains 30 paintings on the ceiling and 357 mirrored panels along one side. More than a dozen chandeliers light the space and its endless gilded details.

The Hall of Mirrors

The Hall of Mirrors

It was quite crowded inside so we toured quickly. The weather outside had cleared a bit so we moved on to the gardens extending northwest from the palace. Although it was a gray day and I was more focused on the unrelenting cold than I was on shooting photos, there were some nice opportunities to capture Versailles and the magnitude of the site.

Versailles

Versailles

On a sunny summer day, the outdoor gardens of Versailles must surely be a delight to explore. Standing at the North Terrace, they extend as far as the eye can see with fountains and sculptures in between. The Orangery is visible from a walking path to the southwest. Designed by architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the Orangery houses orange, lemon, pomegranate and oleander trees in the winter which are moved outside to the parterre garden during the summer months.

I wish I had more and brighter photos to share of Versailles ~ it is so deserving of a full, robust report!

But as is always the case with Paris, I have something wonderful to look forward to when I return again … next time on a sunny day.

Versailles

Versailles

21 comments

  • looks so stunning!!! sadly on my trip to paris I did not make it here

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  • Versailles is one of those places whose names have been ingrained in people’s minds since early age, or at least that’s according to my own experience as I learned about it at school during history lessons. Unfortunately, my three-day trip to Paris back in 2007 was too short for an excursion outside the French capital. Reading your posts on Paris and Caroline’s (from Writes of Passage) accounts on Brittany and Normandy really make me wish I could book a trip to France right away!

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  • One of the nicknames of Louis XIV was le Roi Soleil, the Sun King; the Sun King lacked a bit of sunshine that day. However, the photos give a good idea of the outstanding scale of the Palace and its impressive decoration. Thanks for sharing.

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  • How reassuring to know we are not alone when you write “not every day can be a winner”. So true but even on those occasions one makes the best of it as you did and the proof is in this wonderful gallery. Thanks Kelly.

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    • It’s true, right?! Gotta make the best of it. Every day is a gift whether the sun shines or not. I know we’re on the same page about that! Thanks, Andrew. Happy you enjoyed what little gallery I managed to pull together. 🙂

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  • I like your photos. I think you captured Versailles well, especially the marble court, hall of mirrors, door detail, and the reflection photo. I’ve been twice and seeing these pics it still felt new to me, like I need to go back and see more. The first time I was 20something and what I remember most is me and my girlfriend hitching a ride back into Paris. We were so innocent and trusting.
    Alison

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    • Thank you, Alison! Happy to hear you enjoyed the photos. Not my best work, LOL. 🙂 It’s funny how a site like Versailles doesn’t really get on the radar or sink in until later in life. I can’t believe I had never thought to go here before this trip. And like you, I want to go back. John just left a comment about taking a bike tour with a picnic through the gardens. Sounds amazing!!

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  • Such a shame, Kelly- I remember melting there, though overall it was cool when we were in Paris. We didn’t venture inside- too many people and I’ve seen so many glorious photos- but the grounds were lovely. 🙂 🙂

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  • I’ve been there on not one, but two, crummy days! The first was a rainy, gray day with our kids, and the second was a cold, gray day in winter with my sister. Nevertheless, it’s such a spectacular place that the weather (mostly) fades from memory. Love your photos!

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    • Thank you, Lex! Funny, I was thinking of you as I was writing about the weather knowing that you’ve had numerous trips and moments spoiled by it. Sad to hear you’ve experienced not just one but two dreary days at Versailles! But you’re right, at some point the weather is eclipsed by the site. It’s glorious. I just can’t fathom how incredible it would be on a sunny spring day with blue skies and blooming gardens.

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  • Great post. You captured it well. I have been twice to Versailles. The first time a private guided tour in January. It looks like the same weather I had at that time. Susan and I went this past August. We did a bike tour around the grounds and had a picnic with wine overlooking the palace. Then on to an afternoon tour inside the palace. It was very crowded and even with pre-purchased tickets, there was a wait to get in. It is an amazing place to see but on this second visit, the bike tour around the grounds was amazing. We spent 3 nights in Versailles and it was so worth it. I highly recommend visiting the Carriage Museum, and the King’s kitchen garden, which is free and of course, and the wonderful village. So charming!

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    • The bike tour sounds amazing! I want to go back and do that! Love your idea of staying in the village and seeing more. I came across the Carriage Museum while I was collecting facts for this post and really wish we had spent more time looking into everything we could have seen. In any case, I look forward to acting on your recommendations next time we’re there. Thank you so much for sharing the info, John!

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  • Bad weather or not, Kelly, still ever so impressive. A three hour wait though. Ouch! I think my record for standing in line is about an hour! 🙂 –Curt

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    • Thanks, Curt. Ouch is right. Had we known we would have some time on the back end of our trip to wait for a better day, we would have done that. But… what’s that saying? C’est la vie!

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  • Stunning photos, even with the overcast weather! Thank you for posting

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  • Yes ! This is the best country for its world class heritages!

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